WHEN THE DOLPHINS RUN THE BALL
Reggie Bush is on something of a home roll because he has gained more than 100 yards in each of his past two home games. Bush played well in the season opener last week, when he averaged 4.9 yards per carry. But the issue here is the Dolphins staying close enough or leading so that staying with the running game makes sense. Look for Jorvorskie Lane, a rookie fullback, to be implemented into the running game with halfback Daniel Thomas ruled out for the game Friday because of a concussion. The Raiders are not exactly a fortress up front, but they did excellent work against San Diego last week, limiting the Chargers to only 36 yards and 1.6 yards per carry. If the Raiders continue to get great pursuit to the football, much of it from Rolando McClain, then the Dolphins might have a long day. If the Raiders’ discipline breaks down — with players not filling the right gaps or jumping repeatedly offside — then the Dolphins might have a good day on the ground. ADVANTAGE: Even.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS PASS THE BALL
The focus for the Dolphins this week was preventing the dreaded batted pass that basically helped decide last week’s game against Houston. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill must find passing lanes, which means he might have to shuffle a little in the pocket. Offensive linemen have been admonished about gut-punching the Raiders’ defensive linemen to get their hands down. And coaches might be reticent to call so many quick slants off three-step drops. Aside from this, look for more snaps for Brian Hartline and perhaps fewer snaps for Legedu Naanee in the passing game. Rookie tight end Michael Egnew might also get a chance to play, although that is not certain. The Raiders’ corners are no longer in the Charles Woodson, Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes league. And one corner they do have — Ron Bartell — might not play because of a shoulder injury. That would be certain trouble against most NFL teams, but against the Dolphins, we’ll have to wait and see. ADVANTAGE: Even.
WHEN THE RAIDERS RUN THE BALL
Darren McFadden is easily one of the most explosive athletes to carry the football in the NFL. He’s big and fast. But all those gifts haven’t translated to stardom because there is precious little help for him up front in the way of blocking. It must be said that when the Raiders do have success running the ball, they win. The team is 7-2 in games McFadden gains 100yards or more. The Dolphins are concerned about their depth up front because defensive lineman Tony McDaniel is not playing. That will mean more work for Randy Starks and Paul Soliai. The Dolphins faced a similar run scheme from the Houston Texans last week and performed admirably, giving up only 2.4 yards per carry. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
WHEN THE RAIDERS PASS THE BALL
The Raiders targeted McFadden 18 times last week, which makes him their go-to receiver. But if you were reading above, you see McFadden is a running back. That speaks to Oakland’s lack of talent or imagination or both in the passing game. The truth is, Miami’s bigger concerns are Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore. Both can stretch the field and get over the top of the defense. But there are questions about Moore’s health and Heyward-Bey’s consistency. Look for the Dolphins to attack the Raiders much the same way they did Houston late last week, which will mean a lot more work for Jimmy Wilson. The Dolphins believe their pass rush was good but not great last week. More blitzes might be coming this week. ADVANTAGE: Oakland.
This is pretty simple, actually. Last week, the Dolphins were in the top 10 in 10 of the 16 special-teams categories the team views as important to winning. Miami was fist in average drive start off kickoffs and field-goal percentage. Everyone is healthy, and Marcus Thigpen is confident after his punt-return TD in his NFL debut. However, the Oakland unit is plagued by the memory of a game that was perhaps the worst special-teams performance in recent club history. Despite having perhaps the best punter and kicker in the game, the Raiders collapsed when long-snapper Jon Condo sustained a concussion and was replaced with Travis Goethel. Goethel couldn’t get the ball to the punter with any consistency, so Oakland had a punt blocked and twice Shane Lechler was tackled after he fielded errant snaps. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
Someone is going to get his first NFL coaching victory. Joe Philbin and Dennis Allen are both rookie coaches and both 0-1 after one game so this one is big for both. This game will measure which of the two got his team to rise from defeat faster. Philbin obviously has an advantage playing at home and in his time zone. That means Philbin has less work to do in changing his schedule around. ADVANTAGE: Miami.